It was standing room only at Alexandria’s Black History Museum last Thursday night for the opening of its new exhibit entitled “Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity.” The exhibit is a central element of the museum’s tribute to Black History Month.
“Exhibits become like family. And this one offers us a fantastic opportunity to connect with the community,” said Audrey Davis, the museum’s assistant director/curator.
This is one of four exhibits presently on tour.
The opening reception was co-hosted by the local museum and Mid-Atlantic Arts Alliance, a regional arts organization based in Kansas City, Mo. “Wrapped in Pride” is just one example of M-AAA’s endeavor to bring more art and humanities programming to the nation, according to Louis Hicks, director, Alexandria Black History Museum.
“‘Wrapped in Pride’ has enabled citizens in smaller communities to see this tribute to a special culture,” said Bruce Cole, chairman, National Endowment for the Humanities, which was responsible for assembling the exhibit and its funding.
“These are the shows all Americans should be able to enjoy. ‘Wrapped in Pride’ is the story of the people of Ghana. This is a very special exhibition. The beauty of these exhibits is that they are able to transcend. It enables us to connect with a universal bond. We all share common ideals and hopes,” Cole told the audience.
“Today Kente cloth enjoys a special symbol of unity. Kente cloth causes us to ask questions and to learn of other cultures,” he said.
Joining Cole in opening the exhibit was James R. Tolbert III, chair of the M-AAA, who praised the inspiration and guidance of Nancy Rogers, director, Division of Public Programs, NEH, for playing a leading role in developing the exhibition.
Following the various opening presentations, Dr. Doran Ross, exhibit curator, gave a slideshow background lecture in the museum’s adjacent Watson Reading Room. The exhibit will remain at the museum through March 10.
Throughout the month, visitors will be able to view dozens of vibrantly woven kente cloths, including some hands-on examples. These are complemented by an array of photographs, a market stall and a traditional loom.
All these elements explore both the art and symbolism of kente in the cultures of Africa and African American communities, according to the museum.